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Preschool and Child Care

Simple Things Child Care Providers Can Do to Help All Children Read Well

Child care providers can play a pivotal role in helping young children learn how to read. This collection of tips will help you incorporate reading into your programs.

Read to infants even before they are able to talk.

Make books part of your one-on-one time with babies. Although they don’t always understand exactly what you are saying, babies love to listen to voices. Over time, babies will associate pleasant feelings with books and reading.

Set up a reading area.

Create a colorful or cozy space where children can read or you can read to them. Make sure the area is well lit and that interesting books are placed where children can easily see and reach them. Include books for children with special needs. The space does not need to be very large. It is more important that it is well defined and that children feel comfortable using it. Plan time when children can look at books on their own.

Read to children every day.

Read with small groups, share illustrations, and change your voice to make stories come to life. Also, read one-on-one with children when they ask you to or when you want to share a book. Use these times to encourage children to talk about the story and characters and to share their ideas.

Encourage volunteers to read with children.

Identify children who need extra help in reading and contact volunteer groups at nearby colleges, high schools, community organizations, religious groups, businesses, or senior centers. Include children with special needs. In addition to reading with volunteers, children can draw pictures about the characters in the book or make up stories of their own. After listening to the child’s story, volunteers might print or type the story for the child to keep.

Read with children about their native culture.

Children often respond well to stories about their own cultures. This practice also exposes other children to cultures different from their own. In addition, offer books without words so children can make up their own stories to go with the pictures.

Encourage families to read with children.

Support family reading times by allowing children to borrow books overnight or for a few days. Sign up for programs that provide free or inexpensive reading materials. Also, encourage families who speak languages other than English to read with their children in their native language. This will help children learn to write and read English as well.

Teach children rhymes, songs, and poems.

Make up stories about children in the group and include their names in familiar songs. Ask families to help you learn songs, poems, and stories in the children’s home languages.

Talk with young children about their own lives.

Make a special effort to talk with infants and babies. Responding to their cooing and babbling as if you understand them helps them learn about language. As children grow older, encourage them to join you in conversation and be interested in what they have to say. Giving details, descriptions, and telling stories not only helps children learn how stories are written and what they mean, but it also builds vocabulary and communication skills. Do not focus on correcting grammar; instead, model correct grammar yourself.

Plan a field trip to the library.

Contact your local library to arrange a guided tour that explains how children can use the library. Learn about the library’s services for young children. Ask about bilingual story times, special story hours for child care programs, and workshops for caregivers. Discuss how children and families can obtain and use their own library cards.

Help start a community family reading program.

Consider inviting families to attend reading and parenting discussions. Make sure these gatherings are held at a time when family members can attend. When necessary, send information home about these programs in the family’s native language.

Excerpted from: Simple Things You Can Do to Help All Children Read Well and Independently By the End of Third Grade (1997) U.S. Department of Education
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